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Not Quite Hollywood

Background Notes

not quite hollywood
Not Quite Hollywood
 
In 2003, the A-list of the local film industry attended the Australian premiere of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill - Volumne One. When introducing the film Tarantino shocked the audience by dedicating it to his favourite Antipodean Filmmaker, Brian Trenchard-Smith - Australia's leading exponent of action/exploitation films in the 70s and 80s.

Newspaper articles reported, in disbelief, Tarantino's keen interest and love of Australian genre cinema.

It appeared the journalists, and indeed the Australian filmgoing public, had forgotten that, as well as the revered historical films of the 70s and 80s, the local industry had also produced a steady stream of sex romps, terror tales and action extravaganzas.

The early 70s were a time of change in Australia. After decades of repressive censorship laws and highly conservative governments, a wave of liberalism swept the country. The R-certificate was introduced in late 1971 to reflect changing community standards - and almost overnight Australia had one of the most progressive censorship regimes in the world.

  edna & barry
  Edna (pre-Dame) with Bazza
At the same time, Australia was rediscovering itself on the cinema screen. For several decades the country had been overwhelmingly on the receiving end of British and American cinema - and Australian audiences had rarely seen their own landscapes or heard their own accent in the local picture theatre. Now, the creative floodgates opened and a film industry re-emerged after being virtually dormant for thirty years. Playwright David Williamson and satirist Barry Humphries recognized that exaggerated humor verging on parody worked with Australian audiences at that time - and the films Stork (1971) and The Adventures of Barry McKenzie (1972) were born. These films were a sensational success with Australian audiences - providing a voice for the long silent proletariat. Most importantly, these films proved to cynical distributors that all-Australian productions could attract the public.

Alongside Stork's director, Tim Burstall, a select group of fearless filmmaking mavericks emerged - including cheeky, diminutive sex-specialist John D. Lamond, foot-to-the-floor action helmer, Brian Trenchard-Smith, and high-concept genre producer Antony I. Ginnane, who had little time for loose talk of art or culture and much time for marketing and packaging deals.

This wild bunch of colourful cinematic renegades quickly took advantage of Australia's newfound big-screen liberation and produced a string of films that packed Australian cinemas with patrons craving to see boobs, pubes, tubes and kung fu - with a unique Australian spin. Along the way these filmmakers braved a barrage of assault from critics with "high art" notions who found it distasteful that this appalling culture was being foisted on poor, unsuspecting suburbanites.

turkey shoot
Turkey Shoot: not exactly the politician's idea of Tourism Australia
 
They faced accusations from moral crusaders, The Festival of Light, who proclaimed many of their early films "Government sponsored pornography".

They battled through claims from the emerging feminist movement that their films featured the worst instances of Australian sexism and misogyny.

They took a stand against Actors Equity who introduced new tougher guidelines limiting the number of foreign actors that could be imported for an Australian film.

They soldiered on when critics and politicians alike demanded a less vulgar, more culturally elevated filmmaking in an attempt to represent Australia abroad as refined, genteel and sentimental.

They offered an alternative to the wave of nostalgic films produced during Australian cinema's elegiac period of the late 70s - and ultimately, they produced Aussie genre films that were playing in hundreds of American theatres and breaking box office records in the most unlikely countries.

As the 70s progressed, the "bedroom action" soon gave way to "white-line action". Films such as Stone (1974) and The Man From Hong Kong (1975) laid the foundation for the groundbreaking Mad Max movies - climaxing with that one magic moment in time when, to quote Tarantino, "Aussie films were so bang-on that the Italians did rip-offs of them. First the unofficial Patrick sequel and then for most of the 80s Italy's rip-off machine specialized in Mad Max rip-offs. That was the coin of the realm!"

  patrick
  Patrick: the original freakazoid
Recently, there has been a fevered examination and re-evaluation of genre cinema from England (Hammer Horror), Italy (the Spaghetti westerns and Giallo horror movies), America (grindhouse cinema) and Canada (the early Cronenberg movies), but Australian genre cinema has been overlooked, even locally - still eclipsed by the focus on our "historical" cinematic output. But the influence of these films is starting to be seen amongst a new generation of young Australian filmmakers.

Director Jamie Blanks, a big fan of Australian genre directors Richard Franklin (Roadgames) and Brian Trenchard-Smith (Turkey Shoot), has followed his two big budget Hollywood horror films, Urban Legend (1998) and Valentine (2001) with a couple of local genre films scripted by Everett DeRoche (Patrick, Razorback) - Storm Warning and a remake of Colin Eggleston's Long Weekend.

Leigh Whannell, another self-confessed "Ozploitation" fanatic, has written, produced and starred in the US box office smashes Saw (2004) and Saw 2 (2005).

Greg McLean's low budget horror film, Wolf Creek (2005), was the highest grossing Australian film of 2005, with reviews linking it back to 70s Australian genre films such as Mad Max (1979) and Roadgames (1981).

Internationally, genre specialist Quentin Tarantino has even paid homage to Patrick (1978) in Kill Bill (having the comatose bride replicate Patrick's trademark spitting) and Fair Game (1985) in Death Proof (stuntwoman Zoe Bell is strapped to the front of a speeding vehicle).

Not Quite Hollywood is the first detailed examination and celebration of Australian genre cinema. It looks at how genre cinema got started in Australia; its triumphs, near misses and tragedies - and it finally shines a spotlight on the undervalued auteurs who brought it to life in such an explosive way!

Courtesy Madman Films.

 
 
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